Monday, December 18, 2006

Treasure Christ this Christmas

A meditation on Micah 1:1-5a and Matthew 13:44.

I have seen bumper stickers and car magnets saying "Keep Christ in Christmas" all over the place. In fact, someone put one on our car without us knowing it. I have to confess...I took it off because I have never liked having any kind of bumper sticker or car magnet. That's not the point, and I'm not about to pull out a soap box on the whole "Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays" debate. I actually don't care for that debate...some people try to make you feel "less that Christian" if you with someone a happy holiday. "Keep Christ in Christmas," they might say. Well, as my grandmother (a.k.a. - Jo Jo) would say, "Jesus shouldn't just be celebrated one day a year. He's for every day." Amen, Jo Jo.

No, what I write today is a reminder that if we are to focus on Christ, let's not just remember him the way we remember fond Christmases gone by. Let's not just have him as part of Christmas the way we have trees and gifts and family meals. The incarnation of Christ as a baby is far too significant to just be part of a holiday tradition. So, don't just remember Christ or recognize Christ...treasure Christ this Christmas. Why? I'm glad you asked.

Why treasure Christ at Christmas?

(1) He is the God-man. Micah 5 indicates that the coming Messiah would be both God and man. We can see this in two places. First, the Messiah will be God according to verse 2b... "one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." There is only One who can be described in this way. It is God Himself. God is eternal and existed before time, space, or any material thing was created. He alone could be described as the Ancient of days.

Second, the Messiah will be a man. In verse 3, Micah says that Israel will be abandoned "until the time when she who is in labor gives birth..." Isaiah says the same of the Messiah in his prophecy: "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given" (9:6). From the garden, we can hear echoes of a coming Savior who would be a man, as God says that the seed of the woman (i.e.- a man) will crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).

This Messiah would be God. This Messiah would be a man. This Messiah would be the God-Man...Jesus Christ. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:1, 14). Treasure Christ this Christmas because He is the God-Man promised in the Old Testament prophecy.

(2) He was born in a manger. That sounds strange, doesn't it? Treasure Christ because He was born in a manger?!? Are you sure? A manger is such a low and humble place. In fact, Micah indicates that even the town was low and humble when he says, "Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me...[a] ruler" (v. 2). First of all, Bethlehem was such an inconspicuous town that it wasn't even listed when the tribe of Judah was given its land in Joshua 15. Saying the Messiah would come from Bethlehem would be like saying a Messiah would come from Iron City, TN. Iron City? you might think. Where's Iron City? Well, that's exactly the point. It's a town of about 700's no place for such a royal birth.

However, God seems to choose obscure people and places to accomplish His work. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise...the weak things of the world to shame the strong...the lowly things of the world and the despised that no one may boast before him" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). John Piper says of this truth, "God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, 'He chose the comfort of my inn!' God chose a manger so that no woodworker could boast, 'He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!' He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, 'The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!'"

This same choice of God's is observable in salvation. God did not save me or you because of our great talents or because of our wondrous character. He chooses the foolish, weak, despised, sinful people of the world to display the great glory of His salvation. When you remember the manger, don't feel sorry for Mary and Joseph...rejoice that your life was a smelly, rotten, abandoned manger into which Jesus has been born. There was nothing about you that drew God to was His grace alone that drew you to Himself. Treasure Christ because He was born in a manger.

(3) He came with a mission. There are seven pieces of this mission that Micah points to. It is an eternal mission (v. 4 - "he will stand..."). The Scripture says elsewhere that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you, but here Micah uses the word "stand". That word means that He will remain...stand fast. When life tosses you into disease and turmoil, Jesus will stand. When you feel like you can't go on, Jesus will stand. When you sin and fail in your walk with Christ, Jesus will stand.

It is a providing mission (v. 4 - "he will...shepherd his flock"). Feeding the flock was a main responsibility of the shepherd, and Jesus Christ is the good shepherd. He has laid down His life for the that you might live. He will not abandon you in your time of need. He will provide all that you need according to His glorious riches.

It is a consistent mission (v. 4 - "in the strength of the Lord" and "in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God"). People will let you down. Your spouse will let you down. Your pastor will let you down. People may be cold when you need warmth. Your spouse may forget something that was critical to remember. Your pastor may be unavailable at the moment you need him. Jesus will not do any of these. Our Messiah shepherds us in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of His name. He will never forget you...He is near you when you are brokenhearted... He is never unavailable to those who cry out in faith to Him. He is our consistent Messiah.

It is a secure mission (v. 4 - "they will live securely"). When you belong to this Messiah, Jesus Christ, you are secure. You see, your salvation and eternal life are not based on your character. It is based on the character of God. Jesus says, "I shall lose none of all that [the Father] has given me" (John 6:39). He also says, "No one can snatch [My sheep] out of My Father's hand" (John 10:29). Salvation is not about a prayer prayed, a baptism observed, or a membership card filled is about our lives being saved from the miry pit of sin, death, and hell by a God who will in no way cast us out.

It is a worldwide mission (v. 4 - "for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth"). This Messiah would not be an Israeli king only. He would be the King over all kings. No matter their color or nation, He is the King over all. All kings...white, black, Asian, Hispanic, mixed race, American, German, Kenyan, Chinese, Korean, subject to the King of kings. All men, women, boys, and girls will either bow their knee in faith during this life, or they will bow their knee in condemnation in the life to come. This is why it is so critical that men and women are sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ all over the world. This is why international missions is so critical. The Messiah's mission is's not a white America mission. It is an "every tribe, language, people, and nation" mission.

It is a peaceful mission (v.5 - "he will be their peace"). There is a political aspect to the peace about which Micah speaks. However, our Messiah brings us peace with God. "Therefore, having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). As sinners, we are enemies of God, but through the glorious salvation of Christ, we have been reconciled to our God and now live at peace with Him.

Finally, it is a forgiveness mission (read 7:18-19). Forgiveness comes from God alone, even the Pharisees knew this. Jesus Christ came as the God-man to glorify our great God through the forgiveness and salvation of sinners. Who will be forgiven? Notice the word "remnant." All will not be forgiven...only a portion. How do you know who that portion is? Romans 5:1 tells us... "justified through faith." Only those that have been justified through faith in Christ live in a peaceful, forgiven relationship with God.

These seven things (and more) mark the grandeur of our Messiah's mission. It is an eternal, providing, consistent, secure, worldwide, peaceful mission of forgiveness.

So, treasure Christ this Christmas! Why? Because He is the God-man, He was born in a manger, and He came with an amazing seek and to save that which was lost.